The Cullman County Board of Education is moving money and making budget cuts to reflect a $5.25 million reduction in state funding.

Allocations for every school system in the state were cut by 12.5 percent in December when Gov. Bob Riley declared a prorated education budget, citing the sluggish economy. That amount was reduced by 9 percent when Riley used half of the $437 million Rainy Day Fund to absorb some of the cut.

Randy Dunlap, chief financial officer for the CCBOE, said the budget has been trimmed and funds flexed in a new budget amendment to reduce spending.

The system’s fuel budget, which was originally $800,000, has been cut by $250,000.

“When we [originally] made that budget, gas was costing us almost $4 per gallon,” Dunlap said. “So, we were able to take that down, now.”

Approximately $400,000 from the Public School Fund (PSF) — allocations originally set aside for construction projects — have been flexed to pay for electricity payments.

Dunlap said the extra funds were needed because the estimated utility and maintenance expenditures increased approximately $400,000.

“We had budgeted bare-bones for those,” he said.

Utility costs increased partially because of the new fuel surcharge recently added by the Cullman Electric Cooperative, which was passed down to them from the TVA.

The PSF construction budget was also reduced by $150,000, as all upcoming construction projects have been halted.

“We don’t plan to start anything new right now,” Dunlap said.

Per the amendment, $250,000 has also been flexed from the system’s school bus fleet renewal funds to pay for bus fuel. The renewal fund’s intended use is to lease and purchase new buses.

“Most of our buses are in good shape for now, so hopefully in a few years we can get back on track,” Dunlap said.

The amendment also brought a $20,000 reduction in central office expenditures.

An approximate $300,000 increase for special education expenditures were also noted in the amendment.

“Those costs have increased,” Dunlap said. “So, we had to re-budget for that.”

Though the cuts included in the amendment will make up for some of the prorated funding, further cuts will almost certainly be required heading into the 2009-2010 school year.

Those cuts will likely come by reducing the system’s workforce — teachers, support personnel and part-time employees.

Superintendent Hank Allen and Dunlap have previously stated they intend to finish the school year with current staff levels, but once May arrives cuts are likely.

“Initially, we may have to terminate all non-tenured employees, because you can always hire them back,” Dunlap said in a previous interview. “It’s not the easiest way to do it, but principals need to be thinking about, ‘What if I have two or three less teachers next year,’ because it’s a possibility.”

Allen declined to make any early estimates as to exactly how much teachers and staffing will be affected by the cuts.

“We’re going to look at part-time employees first, and of course look at attrition and retirement to see how that will affect us,” he said. “Then, non-tenured teachers and staff.”

The CCBOE has a work session set to begin at 6 p.m. tonight, with proration a likely topic.

An impromptu board meeting will also take place at the work session. An advance copy of the meeting agenda was requested, but was not provided by press time.



‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 225.

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